For the first time in I don't know how many years, I haven't bought a baseball preview magazine. I peeked through it the last time I was in the supermarket, and the one I picked up didn't even have the Johan Santana deal. So I figure, why bother? And I also figure, why don't I just write my own. So this week I'll quickly preview each of the divisions, culminating in my playoff picks and my award winners. Today we look at the National League East.
I would be shocked if the Florida Marlins or Washington Nationals are relevant at all this year. So I'm just going to skirt past them (but check with me again at the end of September, when the Mets close their season against the Marlins - that was a disaster last year).
This will be a three-team race all year....I don't know that there will be a time all year when the Braves, Phillies, and Mets aren't within 5 games of each other.
A disclaimer, a la my American League East preview - this assumes the Mets are healthy come April. I'm still not panicked about their injuries - although everyone in their starting lineup is basically missing time -1) Some are getting healthy, and 2) I'd rather a lot of this happens now than in September. Get it out of the way. Who knows, maybe Moises Alou stays healthy the rest of the year after he comes back from this hernia surgery. (It should be called "hergery". Get rid of a couple of syllables.)
Now, I also need to say this: For the first time in my life, I was prepared to pick against the Mets. I really liked the Braves this year - they just look really good on paper, they didn't go away much of last year, when you didn't think they had it in them, and the Mets had some serious flaws. Then they got Johan Santana, and that was the deciding factor for me - the Mets are going to win the division. It just makes the whole team better - I've gone through that a bunch of times. So if the Mets keep a semblance of health, they are the team to beat. But it won't be in a runaway.
The Braves have a very good rotation. They have a full year of Mark Teixeira. They have the best offensive catcher in the division. Jeff Francoeur is coming off a great year. Chipper Jones is back to being effective (not that it matters, since he's always effective against the Mets). I think the Braves will be back to giving the Mets fits, but unlike the last time Tom Glavine was in Atlanta, the Braves will be looking up at the Mets in the standings for most of the year. (Boy, would I love to be wrong and see the Braves at the bottom of the division...but that's doubtful.)
And then there are the Phillies, who are starting to scare me just a touch. The way they played against the Mets last year should have sent the Mets a message, and hopefully the Mets answer back by dominating Philadelphia this year. The roles are reversed. I think the Phillies will be a little too confident, though, based on what happened last year. They're a good team, don't get me wrong - I think they'll get back to their underachieving selves, as they get into a situation where they are almost the favorites because of what happened last year.
My playoff picks and award winners will come up tomorrow - I need to get it out of the way before the NCAA Tournament gets underway, or else it won't happen. Then it's just sit and wait for the season to start......
WHEN YOU'RE HURT, YOU'RE HURT: Boy, the Mets can't catch a break. Not sure how long of an effect this will have, and all I know about this right now is what I read on the ESPNEWS crawl - but apparently Carlos Delgado was hit by a broken bat shard when he was leading off third base. It required four stitches. That just doesn't happen!